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How to Import Contacts into Android 1

Contacts is a very important hub for many smartphone activities. You use the contacts when you send & receive phone calls, SMS, Gmail, and Emails. Even social app contacts like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter can be integrated into this hub. That's why it is worth the time to set up your contacts correctly. For many people who have come from the old "feature phone" environment it is not uncommon to have information about each contact in various places, e.g.

  • The physical address of people handwritten in a contact book or a text file on a computer.
  • The phone numbers of these people in the old phone.
  • The email addresses of the same people in an email program.

It makes a lot of sense to merge all this information into one place "in the cloud". For Android that is called the Contacts, part of Google Mail. The advantages are:
  1. if you loose your phone, or add another Android device (e.g. a tablet) the contacts will be automatically copied to your new device, if you allow this.
  2. If you make changes to one contact through the web interface or straight from the Android device the changes will be applied to all Android Devices which have your Google account and the cloud portion of your account as well.

To do this clean-up work of your contacts is probably easiest to do on a PC, if you have access to one. We will look at the details later in this chapter. If you haven't done this before you'll need to import all the information you can before you manually start to clean them all up.

How to get to your Google Contacts on a PC

So let's start from the beginning, how can you see your Google contacts on a PC ?
  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  2. Click on the large Gmail letters on the top left below the Google logo and get the drop-down box
  3. Click on Contacts

Click on Gmail Click on Contacts

How to get your contacts to your new Android device

We'll look at the following scenarios:
  1. All my contacts are already in the cloud and cleaned-up -> Bulk-update from the Google cloud.
  2. Most of your contacts' information is in a Mac Address Book or Outlook that can export a vCard file.
  3. Most of your contacts' information is in Outlook or similar program that can export a CSV file.
  4. Your contacts' information is on an old phone
  5. You've now imported the various pieces, how can you clean-up and merge the relevant pieces.

1 Bulk-update from the Google cloud

This is the easiest one, if you have stored your contacts in the Google cloud with all the information. So if you've replaced your device (for example, if you've lost your phone, or it's been stolen), or you just bought a new one, then your new Android device will receive all these contacts automatically straight from the cloud - job done, very convenient! Just ensure when you set-up your device that you've allowed Google to do this:

If you didn't do this at Setup (the left screen below), you can change it at any time as the middle and right screens show.

Menu -> Settings -> Accounts & synch

Setup: Backup/Restore Accounts & synch Data & synchronization

First of all it's no problem to have multiple Android devices with the same Google account, so you can have several phones (with different SIM cards) or a phone and a tablet. But in case you intend to sell or give-away your old phone then after you've done and you're satisfied everything works on your new Android device then it's recommended to erase everything from your old device before you sell it or give it away as explained in the Start all over: Reset chapter.

2 Bulk-update from a Mac Address Book or Outlook using a vCard file

This is the easiest option after option 1. It is very similar as the next method below, vCard files have fewer limitations than CSV files, e.g. you´get the contact picture included.

  1. From the Mac Address Book go to File and choose Export.
  2. Choose Export vCard.

Now you move the file to a PC and:

  1. Sign in to Gmail.
  2. Click Contacts (located above the Compose Mail button).
  3. From the More actions dropdown menu, select Import...
  4. Click the Choose File button.
  5. Locate the vCard file you exported above and click the Import button.

To learn more about how to import vCard files and the limitations read Google's page: Importing vCard files.

3 Bulk-update from Outlook or a similar program using a CSV file

After option 1 and 2 option 3 is the next-easiest, but it has some limitations. The result of this and similar operations from programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, Eudora, and some other email providers will be a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. In this scenario we assume you'll do it using a PC, before your Android device will get it from the Google cloud. Here are the steps to export the file from Outlook:

  1. In Outlook, on the File menu, click Import and Export.
  2. Click Export to a file, then Next.
  3. Click Comma Separated Value (DOS), then Next.
  4. In the folder list, click the contacts folder you want to export, then Next.
  5. Choose a location on your computer to temporarily save the file.
  6. Type a name for the exported file, then OK then Next.

To learn more about how to Map custom fields etc check out Microsoft's page: Export your contacts from Outlook to Google Gmail.

What you do now is:

  1. Sign in to Gmail on a PC.
  2. Click Contacts (located above the Compose Mail button).
  3. From the More actions dropdown menu, select Import...
  4. Click the Choose File button.
  5. Select the CSV file you exported above and click the Import button.

To learn more about how to import CSV files and the limitations (e.g. contact pictures are not imported) read Google's page: Importing CSV files.